Tuesday, October 26, 2010

E-Spyder Ready For Prime Time

     Everyone interested in electric flight will want to know that the E-Spyder electric-powered ultralight is poised to enter the marketplace.A few days ago Tom Peghiny invited me out to Woodstock, CT, about 3 hours drive from my house, to fly the latest prototype (v. 3) of the venerable FlightStar ultralight.
I had to pass since I was prepping for a family visit to Germany.
photo courtesy Yuneec Aircraft and Flying Pages
Checking in from Hamburg, I found a post on his website from my pal and LSA colleague Dan Johnson, who scooped me on the following info:
The E-Spyder will be marketed by Yuneec, which bought the rights to produce the design from Tom and continues development on several other projects: the graceful E430 S-LSA which has won several prizes already; E-PAC power backpack for paragliders; and electric motor systems for a variety of aviation applications.
Originally tabbed for around a $25,000 price tag, latest word is the E-Spyder will price out under $30,000.  It's a single-seater that qualified for Part 103 ultralight status.
Dan also reports the production prototype comes with longer wings (33 ft.) and a dresser drawer-like battery tray to completely enclose the power pack in the fuselage fairing.
Other battery notes: fewer cells but greater overall capacity, simplifying the balancing process during charging (2-2.5 hours) which is important with lithium polymer (lipo) batteries.
Weight-reducing modifications include thinner-wall 7075-T6 tubing, a carbon fiber sandwich fairing and a Mylar-laminate Dacron wing envelope.
Refinements to the motor include a lower max RPM which allows it to spin a longer prop at greater torque.
Tom wrote, "We have been flying a lot since finishing the plane in mid September."
So far Tom and team have taken 15 flights on the upgraded version. Flight testing so far has brought these numbers: a top speed of 52 mph; stall of 22 mph - you can almost run that fast!; 35mph cruise; flight duration of 20-35 minutes, less than the hour originally expected...but Dan quotes Tom as saying "We've been able to soar it in light thermals as it really wants to go up."
And since Tom's place of business (Flight Design USA) gets its power from a company that generates 80% of it from windmill and some hydroelectric sources, you could say the E-Spyder almost literally flies on air.

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